How successful will this the newly launched Google search be? It depends on (1) how difficult it was previously to find music on Google and (2) how good the partner services are at converting Google exposure to real business.

Although Google will make it easier, discovery will become only marginally easier and more organized (based on what Google has introduced thus far). For anybody who wants to invest five seconds, music discovery is already simple and achievable. Currently, getting from search results to a song takes only one or two clicks - an artist's web site and MySpace page are usually the first and second returns in a query. And MySpace is well known to Internet users. About 46% of Internet users from the ages of 18 and 24, according to Nielsen @Plan (Fall 2009), and 21% from the ages of 25 to 24 have used MySpace Music in the last six months.

There's even more to be found through old Google searches. Artist pages at Last.fm and AOL Music - the latter a very popular music portal - are frequently near the top of search results. Song lyric sites tend to be in the search results, too. Not far down the page are YouTube video results - effectively free song samples. And for years, iTunes has been praised as a simple way to find and purchase music. So the argument that finding and hearing artists has been difficult just doesn't hold water. To a generation that grew up without the Internet, for people who remember going to stores and reading imported magazines to find new bands, existing steps to discovery may be more than acceptable. To younger Internet users, the removal of a click or two may make all the difference in the world.

Music sites, tool and applications have improved greatly over the years. Internet users can better find what they're looking for - from artists to streaming sites to music reviews. For example, if you look at the six-year trend of searches for the word "music" at Google by U.S. users, you see the word has accounted for fewer and fewer searches over time. Music is not less popular that it was five years ago. Maybe people don't rely on Google as much as they used to. So how much Google will improve what has already been improved is an important matter.

Converting new fans

More dedicated music fans are likely to put in the two-click effort to get to a song on an artist's MySpace page. This discovery and music experience was already happening and will continue to occur. That leaves the real impact of Google's new partnerships to the less dedicated music fans and the digital laggards. And the question regarding this group of people is what value they have to services, artists, labels, publishers and record labels. If casual, infrequent music listeners and buyers use Google to find music, they are going to run into unfamiliar services. This is where the ability of the services to convert searchers into users becomes important. To grow and to achieve the scale needed to be successful, the services need average Americans, the types of consumers who lag behind most others in product diffusion.

Fewer clicks - no matter how easy the process has been up to now - should help people sample more music. In other words, digital loitering is going to be much more commonplace. Some of that loitering will eventually be monetized by the partners services. Lala, for example, will get more users and more attempts to convert loitering into purchasing. Pandora will get more listeners - and thus more registered users and, maybe, more premium subscribers. MySpace Music will get in front of millions of eyeballs and ears. This is especially potent for independent artists. The songs they have posted to their MySpace page can be accessed on the search results page.

Other questions regarding Google's music partnerships:

-- What does this do to YouTube, and, when it launches, Vevo as a site of music discovery? YouTube videos are currently a popular way to sample audio. According to The Nielsen Company's June 2009 "How Teens Use Media" report, the 12-17 age group averaged a bit over three hours or online videos in May and 10% of that group's unique audience is for music videos. Among that age category, YouTube is the third web brand according to reach. (The first is Google, the second is Yahoo!) Even though teens are thought of as heavy Internet users, the time they spend watching online videos pales compared to the 6:35 per month 18-24 group spent watching online videos in May.

-- What percent of Google searches lead to actual discovery? (The discovery of new artists that tends to define the term "discovery" as used in this context.) When "Britney Spears" is a perennial top Google search term, it's clear users are looking for an artist or music with which they are already familiar. In other words, how will developing acts benefit? After all, their challenge will be in getting a Google user to start a search for them.

-- How many listens does it take for a person to buy a song? On a page of search results, a person can listen to a song. And then what? How daring will people become in their purchases just because they heard a song through Google?

-- The album format seems to have very little to do with these partnerships. Lala is a very album-friendly service. In the examples shown thus far, song samples in search results - and the eventual purchase have been individual songs.

-- The ability to search by song lyrics is a nice addition - especially in the era of synchronizations - and probably the most helpful change in how music can be found through Google.

-- Will any of these services share user info with artists? All click-throughs will take the searcher to a music service that does not share user data. Since traffic will not be routed directly to an artist's web site - where user email addresses can be collected - the value of that traffic is lower than if it artist (or label) owned the data.

-- A search engine is not a curator or a respected voice. People tend to discover music through television, radio and their friends and family members. Google will facilitate the next step in discovery, but the initial impulse - the precursor to the search query - will come from these same trusted sources.

Other news:
Google Unveils New Music Search Capabilities
Analysis: Google To Boost The Music Biz In Three Ways